If you are a fan of the NFL, a popular question each preseason is to list the players on each team that said team can ill afford to lose.
We'll apply that to the college game and this year's Iowa Hawkeyes. Now, you don't want to lose any player, because of what that means to the individuals and then the team. So to put this into a more positive parlance, we can look at this as an exercise in preseason MIP's; most indispensable players.
You may agree or disagree with my selections here, and you can have your say on the HawkeyeNation.com message boards.
I will make this order related to whom I think is the most indispensable player, then the next, and so on.
#1: QB Jake Christensen
Now before some of you start snickering and making another comment about some perceived ‘man crush' that I have on the kid (and I think that stuff is fairly comical, by the way), let me explain myself.
When I look at whom the most indispensable players are, the first thing I look at is depth at their position. I am not necessarily saying that my MIP's are the ‘best' players on the football team, rather, the most indispensable.
When I look at the quarterback position, even though Jake is not long on experience, I think that he is miles ahead of his backups, Rick Stanzi and Arvell Nelson. Nelson may have some more mental maturing to do, with his recent citation for driving without a license as exhibit A, and last year being late for the bus after he was told he would dress out for the Michigan game as exhibit B. Not much is known about either Stanzi or Nelson.
Jake has been in the program for two years, learning from Drew Tate's
success and mistakes. He's a
cerebral football player that also has the mental capacity to handle the
position. And mistakes and
inexperience are magnified at this position. I don't want to sound like I think that
Jake is a cagey veteran, because he is not. But he's the only player at that
position that I feel comfortable with if
For me, there may be no bigger drop-off from starter to backup than there is with Jake, except for maybe….
#1-A: DE's Bryan Mattison/Kenny Iwebema: I list both defensive ends here, but I may as well list all four starting linemen, along with Matt Kroul and Mitch King. Mattison really had a great season in 2006, especially since he had a target on his back late in the year as the only ‘healthy' outside rusher and penetrator left on the line. Chad Geary came in for some spot duty, but there is a huge drop off there. All of the players on the defensive line two deep are green. Adrian Clayborn has beefed up to 275, and he may well turn out to be something special. But until I see it with my own eyes, an injury along the defensive line is something that keeps me awake at night.
#3: C Rafael Eubanks: With the injury to Rob Bruggeman in the spring, Eubanks' health becomes a pretty big deal. He has starting experience at center, which is a big deal. The backup center is walk on Travis Meade. Meade played some last year, and was respectable when pressed into action. But Eubanks is a pretty special player, or if you are not into hyperbole even during the preseason, he has the skills to be a pretty special player. There is a significant drop off at this stage of the game, at least from my ‘haven't been to practice' vantage point.
OLB A.J. Edds: Edds was
called on as a true freshman last year, and you would have to qualify his year
as a major success.
#5: FS Brett
I prefer to be careful with instances like this, even if the message
boards are full of speculation.
I guess we'll know full well on this front on July 31st in
Now, for a few names that you may wonder about, due to their not being mentioned, but that are close to the list:
TE: After Jake, Tony Moeaki is next in line on the list
of players that some fans wonder about with regards to my frequent
mentions. I can't wait to see him
bloom, but Brandon Myers has really
turned some heads. But now that I
think about it, you might add both of these players after
Olsen: He made the biggest
strides on the OL last year, and is arguably
CB Charles Godfrey: I think he is due for a breakout year, and with Bradley Fletcher's out of season troubles, things look thin to start the year.